Homophobia in the NBA: who’s to blame?

This article originally appeared on Outsports.com in November, 2005

Some are blaming the brutality of the game. Others are blaming the mentality of the athletes. Some are blaming testosterone. Still others are blaming man-made facilities, like locker rooms.

These days, a lot of athletes are good at blaming their behavior and attitudes on things outside their control. The behavior in this case: killing another man’s spirit in the name of preserving one’s own manhood.

That’s what homophobia does. It kills the spirit. It tells little boys with big sports dreams that their big sports dreams are worthless unless they suppress what comes natural to them (regardless of how natural or unnatural it comes to anyone else).

You can call someone a fag a lot of ways. You can call them a fag aloud. Or you can deny them access to any particular slice of the American Dream, the one that’s supposed to be pre-ambled with “liberty and justice for all” and “all men are created equal.” Either way, and no matter who and what you blame, you’re still calling that someone a fag. You’re still telling them they are worth less than you. No matter all else, you’re still killing their spirit.

Dear Danny Fortson: when you tell the press that having a gay person on your team “wouldn’t be a good idea” and justify your comments by saying athletes still have a grade-school mentality, not only are you not speaking highly about the mental capacity of your teammates, you’re abusing some kid’s spirit by telling him he’s not a good enough for your world, no matter his athletic ability, because he is worth less than you.

Dear Robert Parish: when you reason that testosterone causes the macho (read: intolerant) and chauvinist environment in the locker room, you’re reasoning that it’s okay for men to behave the way they behave because of an agent in their bodies and chauvinism (which is acceptable?). You’re also saying: screw you, little boy with big sports dreams, grown men can’t help themselves from being heartless souls who treat you like crap and that’s just the way it is. You and your dreams aren’t important enough for me to imagine a better-case scenario or effect change.

Dear Doc Rivers: when you reason away the homophobic reactions of NBA players by saying “guys are brutal,” you’re condoning brutality. Against other human beings. Because guys are brutal, little boy with big sports dreams, and that’s just the way it is. You and your dreams aren’t important enough for me to imagine a better-case scenario or effect change.


Dear NBA, NFL, MLB, et al.: when you cite all the negative reasons why an athlete can’t be himself at all times, you’re telling the little boys and girls of this country that their sports dreams don’t matter, that preserving an environment encouraging behaviors and attitudes unacceptable in the majority of American settings is more important than the spirit of any boy or girl who dare to dream of finding their soul through sport while also daring to dream of loving another of the same gender. You are making a choice to prejudge the situation and the person without a single thought to that person’s ability, that person’s dreams, that person’s feelings. The very definition of killing the spirit.

Dear professional athletes: please stop killing the spirits of little boys and girls in this country by telling them their dreams are worthless. Please give us all a chance to make our sports dreams come true. It will only become a nightmare if we all think the worst and act the worst. If we do the reverse, it just might be a dream come true for all.